OTTAWA — The Kaneland girls basketball program has a reputation of playing some pretty solid defense, and in their meeting with Ottawa here in Kingman Gym on Thursday night did a good job of taking away the Lady Pirates' main threat, senior standout guard Angelique Cowan, limiting her to just six points.
In fact, the Knights did an outstanding job of guarding OHS all around the entire game .
But while the Lady Pirates showed they can play some defense, too, they also showed a few clutch weapons that Kaneland probably hadn't considered.
Junior forward Regan O'Fallon scored two huge baskets — the second a monster 3-pointer from the left corner that gave OHS the lead for good — during the fourth quarter of the defensive struggle, helping Ottawa come back from a three-point deficit to build a lead they could make stand up for a narrow 30-29, NIB 12 Conference win over the Knights.
O'Fallon's clutch play in the final period included two of her six rebounds, and that coupled with the play of senior post Sloan Gayan — who popped in five of her game-high 11 points in that same stanza — sparked a 10-2 burst that took Ottawa from five points down to a 30-27 edge with under two minutes left.
"When we're struggling offensively, we rely on our defense, and we were able to do that for three and a half quarters before we finally started hitting a few shots, and the momentum came back our way," said Ottawa coach Brent Moore. "That's a credit to our defense. Our defense got us to that point, because to hold a good Kaneland team to 29 points on a night we're struggling offensively says a lot about our team, our high character, finding another way to get the job done.
"Rebounding was important, making sure they were one-and-done, and we did a good job of that down the stretch. Regan was a big factor in that and in our scoring in the second half."
Ottawa (7-2, 1-1) slipped out to a three-point lead after one period, and a deuce by Molly Harris made it 12-7 midway through the second, but that was the only make for the Lady Pirates in a stretch of nearly nine and a half minutes until Harris scored again off a Cowan pass at 6:48 of the third stanza. That included 1-for-12 shooting in the second quarter for the team and an 0-for-9 first half for Cowan.
But the Lady Pirates' defense kept them close enough that a Cowan free throw and only trey of the game to beat the buzzer pulled the hosts within 19-18 headed to the fourth.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Chloe Conley widened that gap to a 25-20 edge for Kaneland (3-3, 0-2), but a Gayan free throw started the decisive rally. O'Fallon put back a Gayan miss, and Gayan did the same for Cowan, tying the score at 25.
After a 12-footer by the Knights' Bryanna Kigyos at 4:33 on the clock — the last of her team-best 10 points — put the visitors up a pair, O'Fallon launched her game-changing trey from the left corner with 3:46 showing to put OHS on top for good.
A Cowan jumper at 1:59 offset a pair of tosses from Keely Noel at 1:20 to make it a one-point game again, but Kaneland missed an open jumper with six seconds remaining to ensure the Ottawa win.
"The past several seasons we've been stressing getting better on the defensive end, and we're really proud of the way we played defense tonight," said Kaneland coach Ernie Columbe. "Cowan is an excellent player, as is Gayan, and I won't miss going against them anymore.
"Our kids battled, our effort was outstanding, but the difference was offensively for us, because they gave it right back to us with their defense, and they beat us on the boards late to get some extra opportunities on offense."
At Kingman Gym, Ottawa
Ottawa 30, Kaneland 29
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
KANELAND (29) — Noel 0-5 4-6 4, Kigyos 5-5 0-0 10, Armin 2-7 0-0 5, Turner 0-0 1-2 1, Holubek 0-2 0-0 0, Conley 2-5 0-0 6, Sheehan 0-1 0-0 0, Schueler 0-0 0-0 0, Modaff 1-2 0-0 3, Wheatley 0-1 0-0 0.. Totals 10-28 5-8 29.
OTTAWA (30) — Cowan 2-14 1-4 6, O'Fallon 2-4 0-0 5, Gayan 4-10 1-2 11, Marvell 2-4 0-0 4, Harris 2-3 0-0 4, Carroll 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 13-39 2-6 30.
Kaneland (3-3, 0-2) 7 7 5 10 — 29
Ottawa (7-2, 1-1) 10 2 6 12 — 30
3-point goals — Kaneland 4-7 (Conley 2-4, Armin 1-1, Modaff 1-2), Ottawa O'Fallon 1-2, Cowan 1-6, Marvel 0-1, Harris 0-2). Rebounds — Kaneland 19 (Noel 3), Ottawa 25 (Gayan 8). Turnovers — Kaneland 14, Ottawa 11. Total fouls (none fouled out) — Kaneland 13, Ottawa 8.